December 22, 2007
The parallel is painfully obvious.
Just over 2,000 years ago, an innkeeper in Bethlehem reportedly decided to bend the rules, even though he was stretching his occupancy limit, and agreed to let a young shepherd and his wife stay the night in his manger.
The story, repeated over and over each Christmas, has special significance for volunteers at the Park City Christian Center who are trying to help at least 100 seasonal workers find affordable housing.
For the most part, the temporarily homeless are South American and Australian university students on their ‘summer’ break. They lined up work with eager employers months ago. Unfortunately, though, they didn’t know or didn’t heed the warning that housing is almost impossible to find during the ski season. Now they are here with backpacks, jobs and lot of enthusiasm but nowhere to sleep or shower.
A few years ago, Tim and Pattie Dahlin, who run the Christian Center on Ironhorse Drive, began collecting house wares and organizing for Park City’s growing foreign workforce. The service eventually expanded to include housing information and has since become a lifeline for hundreds of enthusiastic but naïve seasonal employees.
This year, the Dahlins admit, they are overwhelmed. Affordable housing has become even more scarce, and this year it is likely a number of workers will be left out in the cold on Christmas Eve — unless an innkeeper is willing to bend the rules or a local family is willing to rent an extra bedroom, for a few days or a week, just until the holiday rush is over.
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Despite the swirling snow and anxiety about where to sleep, this week the mood at the Christian Center is optimistic. The chatter around the computer is multilingual and each arrival is welcomed with loads of advice and a tour of the food pantry. But just beneath the cheery camaraderie is a wisp of homesickness and exhaustion and, as darkness and temperatures fall, the volunteers realize that there are more newcomers than successful house hunters.
So we are asking you Park City’s innkeepers, second homeowners and full-time residents — to take a moment to remember the true meaning of the season and to consider inviting a young worker, or two to your home for the holidays.
For more information, call the Christian Center of Park City, 649-2260, or stop by 1100 Ironhorse Dr. And may you have a very merry multicultural holiday.